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LA banishes Uber’s e-scooters over data-sharing dispute

Image credit: Cody Engel/Unsplash

The Los Angeles Transport Department has temporarily suspended Uber’s permit to rent out e-bikes and e-scooters over a data-sharing dispute.

Uber leapt on the e-bike and e-scooter-sharing bandwagon, acquiring bike-sharing start-up Jump in April 2018. Their customers can track down and hire one of the bright orange-red electric vehicles using the Uber or Jump app and pay via their Uber account. Jump is available in several US cities, as well as in Berlin, London, Montreal, Rome and Wellington, NZ.

Bird, Lime, Ofo and other operators of bicycle and scooter-sharing services have found themselves challenged by local authorities over their deployment of thousands of the vehicles in cities with arguably insufficient consideration for their impact. Several micromobility operators have been banned in San Francisco, while Santa Monica’s City Attorney filed nine criminal counts against Bird over the premature deployment of scooters.

Uber has been continuing in its habit of tussling with city authorities in Los Angeles, refusing to comply with a data-sharing rule, which requires companies to provide real-time data on all trips made within the city during their one-year pilot overseen by the non-profit Open Mobility Foundation. According to reports, Uber had received multiple warnings over its non-compliance.

Uber and some privacy campaign groups have argued that the rule is tantamount to government surveillance and could result in an inappropriate amount of personal information being gathered from its customers. City officials have countered, arguing that the data is necessary to determine whether Uber is complying with regulations, such as restrictions on the number of vehicles and riding in restricted areas. The LA Transportation Department has also argued that Uber generates and collects colossal amounts of personal data while the city would not request data “specific to individual riders beyond trip information”.

Connie Llanos, a spokesperson for the LA Transportation Department, told the LA Times that: “Every other company that is permitted in Los Angeles is following the rules […] we look forward to being able to work with Uber on getting them into compliance.” The department has clarified that there are eight companies with permits to operate scooters in the city, of which Uber subsidiary Jump is the only one to reject the data-sharing requirement.

Uber’s permit to rent out 5,500 e-bikes and e-scooters in LA has been temporarily suspended over its non-compliance. It will be given until the end of the week to file an appeal or withdraw from the city. The transportation company has threatened to sue the city, characterising the ban as “patently unfair and improper” in a letter.

Meanwhile, Uber has revealed widening losses as the company continues to invest in loss-making new initiatives. The company – which went public earlier this year – reported losses of $1.16bn, sending shares tumbling five per cent.

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